Port Stephens Pelagic Trip Report - Sun 19th September 2010
Boat: M.V.Argonaut, skippered by Ray Horsefield
With the low that had caused giant swells in the Tasman moving eastwards, boating conditions were ideal as the swell eased and winds dropped to virtually nil. It was a very comfortable day at sea (perhaps too comfortable?), with a moderate swell averaging probably just over 2m rolling along all day. Winds were slight to negligible, initially gently from the sou-west and then turning
sou-east later in the day.
There were no real highlights but it was good to have a reasonable number of attentive Albatross sitting on the water next to the boat for the entirety of our time at the shelf. A single Flesh-footed Shearwater was the first for the season.
Departed Nelson Bay Public Wharf at 0700, returning at 1715.
It was a very uneventful journey to the shelf, with few birds seen apart from groups of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters that showed no interest in the boat at all, along with an unidentified Giant-Petrel that showed the same level of interest as the Shearwaters. A single Brown Skua was flushed off the surface about half way out. A couple of Yellow-nosed and Black-browed Albatross joined us not far from the shelf, followed by a brief visit from a Shy.
Once over the shelf we set up a drift at 32 55 11 / 152 34 32 but things moved pretty slowly for our time out there, including the boat which was pushed slowly north by the slight breeze. A brief visit by the only Great-winged Petrel for the day was made just after cutting the motors - views were too brief to assign which subsp. We were soon also joined by an adult Wandering Albatross (probably a Gibson’s) and the occasional Solander's Petrel and White-faced Storm-petrel. The call of “Giant Petrel” went out again and we were soon enough able to confirm it as a Northern. This bird circled the boat for a good 15 minutes before disappearing.
Several pods of Humpback Whales moving south passed us, including one of around 10 individuals. Numerous were seen breaching over the course of the day. Two observations of an Ocean Sunfish were also made near the shelf.
A couple more Wanderers flew in, both younger birds, and at one stage we had about 30 Albatross sitting on the water beside the, mostly Yellow-nosed. About the same number of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were also in attendance. Just before firing up the motors to come home a couple of km's north of our starting point at 32 54 24 / 152 35 28, the only Cape Petrel of the day arrived.
It was a reasonably dull trip back to port, aside from some Storm-petrels that were mostly confirmed to be White-faced, but among which 2 observers on board claimed to have seen a single Fregetta-type. A lone Prion also gave a rapid pass
of the boat, leaving us uncertain of its identity. A bit more excitement was had about 3 miles from the heads when a large inshore feeding flock of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters was noticed. Soon enough we had a single Flesh-footed show interest in the boat, the first of these for the season off Port Stephens. A few Hutton’s Shearwaters also made fly-bys through the throng of Wedgies.
Species: Total (maximum number around the boat at one time)
White-faced Storm-petrel: 15 (7)
Storm-petrel sp. (Fregetta sp.): 1
Prion sp.: 1
Yellow-nosed Albatross: 40 (25)
Black-browed Albatross: 10 (3) all immature
Shy Albatross: 2 (1) both cauta / steadi
Wandering Albatross: 3 (3) – one possible gibsoni
Northern Giant-Petrel: 1
Giant-Petrel sp.: 1
Fluttering Shearwater: 1
Hutton’s Shearwater: 5 (3)
Fluttering-type Shearwater: 15 (3)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater: 500 (250)
Flesh-footed Shearwater: 1
CapePetrel: 1 (nominate)
Solander's (Providence) Petrel: 3 (1)
Great-winged Petrel: 1
Little Penguin: 1
Australasian Gannet: 50 (10)
Crested Tern: 5 (2)
Brown Skua: 1
Silver Gull: 5 (3)
Inshore Bottlenose Dolphin: One pod seen, numbers not known.
Humpback Whale: ~30 (10)
Australian Fur Seal: 1 (at the shelf)
Ocean Sunfish: 2 (1)